Cooperative Touch

Runners, walkers and bikers enjoy exercising along the Cricket Frog Trail’s scenic path. Now, young artists from Eastside High School and the Newton Trails organization are joining forces to update its student-created mural.

by Michelle Floyd

Take a look around Newton County, and you are bound to see collaboration. It ranges from concerts in the middle of downtown Covington’s bustling business district to teenagers volunteering to carry food donations to the elderly, and churches giving away school supplies to children throughout the year. Suppose you find yourself on the ever-expanding Cricket Frog Trail at the trailhead along Elm Street, just off The Square near First Baptist Church of Covington. In that case, you will find another source of collaboration, perhaps unexpectedly. You will see student art displayed on a large mural along a trail used by locals and visitors from all over the world for walking and biking.

“The students have delivered in a big way. It’s a source of interest and of pride. It’s certainly a beautiful part of the trail,” said Duane Ford, chair of the Newton Trails board of directors. “It draws attention to the trail and highlights the work of local artists and students. It’s a win-win all around.”

Some seven years ago, lifelong Newton County resident Melissa Parker reached out to Newton Trails to see if her art club students at the Newton County Theme School could create a mural for the trail. Parker had graduated from Newton High School, earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Georgia State University and worked in the design industry before becoming an art teacher.

“I thought it would be good community outreach and a fun opportunity for the students,” Parker said. “We worked it out with First Baptist Church on the placement and got to work. It was a simple mural of bright, large flowers.”

“The students have delivered in a big way. It’s a source of interest and of pride. It’s certainly a beautiful part of the trail.”

Duane Ford

Although the initial project was special and enjoyed by many for years, Parker began to notice how weathering had left the mural in need of some TLC. Now at Eastside High School, she contacted Newton Trails again to ask if her students there could work on a revised project in the same spot.

“I’m actually teaching students I had in elementary school again in high school,” Parker said. “It’s an opportunity to showcase the work of my art students, as well as an opportunity for them to paint a large-scale project.” Parker started to plan and had her art students come up with ideas and sketches for a new project. “One really stood out,” she said. “Hannah Lockerman, a junior here at Eastside, really followed through with her design. It incorporates symbols of why people use the trail: a bike for physical activity, direction via a compass, nature and the trail’s namesake, the cricket frog.”

Lockerman admits she wants people to see that a high school student’s artwork can be just as good as a professional artist.

“I hope the public sees that art is needed in this world, whether it’s abstract and unreadable or if it’s just a mural on a trail,” she said. “The colors and shape of art define society, as it’s the backbone.”

Parker hopes she can continue to partner with Newton Trails, the City of Covington, her students and other local artists to organize art installations along the trail. Newton Trails seems to be on track with that idea, too. 

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“The board of directors’ position is that we are glad to support the arts and have works of art along the trail,” said Ford, who encouraged anyone interested in participating to contact the board for permission. While “there are certainly places along the trail for it,” he concedes that space will eventually become an issue. 

Ford revealed that some artists have proposed sculptures in the past that have yet to come to fruition, and the board remains interested in hosting a variety of art, pocket parks and garden installation projects along the trail. A local scout troop even built trail kiosks along the way for one of its projects. The Cricket Frog Trail is a once-traveled rail line that was paved in sections over the years for public use from Covington to Mansfield. There are plans to extend it even further throughout the county to host at least nearly 20 miles of paths. 

“It’s quite lovely,” Ford said when asked about the trail. “We’re open to a variety of things, so we hope people will ask.”  

For information about Newton Trails, visit

Click here to read more stories by Michelle Floyd.

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